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Potassium & Boron Deficiency

By Catherine Frances

Potassium functions not only as an essential mineral, but as an electrolyte, while boron was discovered to be an essential element early in the 1900s. For adults the AI, or adequate intake for potassium is 4,700 mg per day. There is no AI or Recommended Dietary Allowance for boron, but the UL, or upper limit, for boron is 20 mg per day for adults. The World Health Organization has set an acceptable range of boron to be 1 mg to 13 mg per day. The correlation between these minerals is that a deficiency in either appears to lead to osteoporosis and kidney stones.

Potassium Deficiency

Potassium deficiency, also called hypokalemia, is more common than boron deficiency. Low potassium consumption can lead to fatigue, muscle weakness and cramps, and intestinal paralysis, which includes bloating, constipation, and abdominal pain. Severe potassium deficiency may cause muscular paralysis or abnormal heart rhythms that may become fatal. There appears to be a correlation between decreased potassium intake and increased incidence of stroke. At least four studies that are detailed on the website of the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University have reported a significant association between potassium intake and bone mineral density, suggesting that low consumptions of potassium may lead to osteoporosis. There also appears to be a correlation between decreased potassium consumption and kidney stones.

Boron Deficiency

Boron deficiency has not been definitively observed in human populations. However, studies have shown that boron deficiency has affected the composition, structure, and strength of bones, causing osteoporosis-like changes. This appears to be a result of boron deficiency affecting calcium and magnesium metabolism; it decreases the minerals absorption and increases their excretion. Boron deficiency may also contribute to the formation of kidney stones and may decrease mental alertness. There may also be a link between boron deficiency and osteoarthritis.

Food Sources

To avoid symptoms of deficiency and ensure proper health, consume adequate quantities of these minerals. Potassium can be found potatoes, prunes, raisins, bananas, tomato juice, orange juice, artichokes, lima beans, acorn squash, spinach, sunflower seeds, almonds, and molasses. Boron can be found in almonds, borlotti beans, hazel nuts, pears, red grapes, apples, Brazil nuts, kiwi, plumbs, chickpeas, oranges, prunes, apricots, peaches, raisins, avocado, dates, peanut butter, and red kidney beans.

At-risk Groups for Potassium Deficiency

Several conditions increase an individual’s chances of becoming potassium deficient. They include having congestive heart failure, magnesium depletion, anorexia nervosa or bulimia, overuse or abuse of laxatives, severe vomiting or diarrhea, alcoholism, or the use of potassium-wasting diuretics. Individuals who consume large quantities of black licorice containing licorice root extract may develop hypokalemia. Western diets are typically high in sodium and lacking in potassium, partly because of the shift from fresh fruits and vegetables to packaged and processed food products.

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